It was inspiring this morning to be at St. Bede’s College for the College Mass at which many students (some of whom were baptised last night) were Confirmed and received Eucharist for the first time.
I am happy to be able to share below the homily that Bishop Paul Martin SM gave at the Mass.
Homily of Bishop Paul Martin SM DD
Driving into St. Bede’s these days you can’t miss the building of your new College chapel. Even while its being constructed you can tell that it’s not simply a classroom or library or a sports venue. The careful design, in the shape of a cross with stained glass windows and a bell tower, tells anyone who sees this building that it is a unique kind of building constructed for a particular purpose. It is clearly recognisable as a church, a chapel, a house of God where God dwells uniquely and in a most real way here on this college campus.
In September we will dedicate the chapel to God, but that’s a few weeks away yet and I don’t want us to miss the powerful sign that the chapel is today while it is unfinished and still under construction.
You see, every one of us here today, we are still “under construction”. Every one of us is “a work in progress”. While we might say that we have been created by God, its even more true to say that we are being created by God.
There are a lot of people involved in a building project; engineers, builders, electricians, plumbers, and all those who manufacture the products that these craftspeople work with. All these people work faithfully to a plan carefully crafted by an architect, agreed to by the client, then signed off and faithfully implemented. When this process works well, a beautiful and efficient fit-for-purpose building is constructed.
You might guess where I am going with this. Each one of us is the result of divine design. We have been created by God, in the image of God, every one of us representing a different aspect of the reality of God. That’s one of the great things about life – there are no two people who are the same and together we are better than the best of us is alone.
While some people proclaim that they can do anything if only they try harder, we who understand that we are created by God realise that it is only with God that all things are possible. Just as a building cannot exist without beginning as a dream, a vision, an idea in the mind of the architect, and with the intelligent co-operation of the builders and tradespeople, so too with each one of us, if we are to be happy and healthy in life, must accept that we are created by God, and will find personal health and happiness in life only when we co-operate with God every moment of every day.
And this is why we gather here today. Last night a number of of our fellow Bedeans were baptised. In Baptism a person announces publicly their acceptance that they are created by God, and their commitment that they will do all they can for the rest of their lives to co-operate with God’s design for their lives. To those who were baptised yesterday, thank you for your example to us in saying yes to God.
In a few moments our brothers who you saw standing before you will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This is a further stage in their faith adventure which will last not only an earthly lifetime but for all eternity in relationship with Jesus Christ. In this Sacrament of Confirmation Jesus confirms that he has chosen you for a particular service, and you confirm your positive response to Jesus’ invitation. To you who are being confirmed, thank you for your witness to us all.
And also in today’s Mass those who are newly baptised and confirmed will join with the rest of our Catholic family to receive the grace and life of Jesus in Holy Communion.
We are only ever baptised once. We are confirmed only once. But we need to receive communion frequently. Because this communion is food for life’s journey, real nourishment for our life of faith. When we receive communion we are allowing God to continue to build us, creating and re-creating us. Catholics understand that while we might be able to exist without communion, abundant life is only possible in communion with Jesus and with each other.
The challenge that we Catholic Christians have is that we are living in a society that doesn’t understand this. Our society rarely looks beyond what is physical and tangible, able to be touched or held. We admire physical beauty and sporting ability – and it’s good that we do. We have respect for sound intellect and emotional maturity and again it is important that we do. But these young men before us, newly baptised and ready to be confirmed are reminding us that there is more to life than what the world can give us. We cannot live happily without God.
You may have heard that I have proposed a restructure of the parishes of our city. This is an acknowledgement that our diocese and parishes are also in the process of being created and re-created, reformed. I have asked all people in the diocese to pray an ancient prayer to the Holy Spirit regularly and I’m asking you, that you take part in this prayer, learning it by heart and using it whenever you need it, and today we will pray this prayer as part of the Prayers of Intercession in this Mass.
There may come a time when you achieve every human goal with success; you win all your sporting games, you pass all your exams, you reach all your career and financial goals, you have quality family relationships and good friends. Ask anybody who has got there “is that enough?” And if they are reflective and they’re honest they will answer, “no! It’s not enough! I have everything that the world can offer, but it is not enough. There must be more!” St Bede himself was teaching us this when 1300 years ago he said “All the ways of this world are as fickle and unstable as a sudden storm at sea!”
Let’s return to that image of the chapel-under-construction. When the college chapel is opened in September, all that the architects and builders intended will be visible. But this completion and opening is not the goal of the chapel project. There is more. Much more. We can rightly say that a completely constructed Catholic chapel then begins its real task of constructing us students, staff, community of St. Bede’s college and people of the wider diocese. We could say that now we are constructing the chapel, but when it’s completed the chapel will construct us! Jesus Christ will then use this building to continue creating us, by attracting us into prayer, the celebration of the Sacraments of the Church, and most especially by being the place where we know God’s love and forgiveness in the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.
Every day when we see the chapel under construction, let’s be reminded that until we die every one of us is under construction, here at School and every day for the rest of our lives. God is our architect, seeking to live in harmony with our divine design, remembering that every time we celebrate a Sacrament of the Church we are choosing to co-operate with God who is continuing to create us.
To learn more about the St. Bede’s College Chapel project or to give you support click on the image below: